The Bombay high court (HC) on Wednesday turned down another attempt by the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) to retain monopoly in electricity distribution in the island city, and keep away competitors.
“We find the BEST’s attempts are to retain willy-nilly, its stranglehold over its hapless consumers and to keep out all competition,” said the division bench of justice SC Dharmadhikari and justice GS Patel while dismissing petition filed by the civic undertaking challenging validity of a clause of the regulations framed by the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) in 2014.
BEST contended that clause 4.10 of the MERC Regulations 2014 nullifies the mandate of provisions of the Electricity Act, 2002 to supply electricity to new consumers within a stipulated time, as the clause carves out unnecessary exceptions going beyond the statutory provisions.
The high court, however, found a foul play in the challenge. The judges noted that BEST’s challenge was “a studied attempt at subverting a statute (Electricity Act) that had at its primary intent the interests of individual consumer of electricity and the promotion of efficient and healthy competition”.
“We find, however, that the BEST’s attempts are in exactly the opposite direction,” said the bench, adding, “We find MCGM’s approach to be far, far less than fair and candid; we find it to be contrarian, antagonistic, and designed to retain a complete monopoly within its command area, all at the cost of the individual consumer.”
BEST had tried to keep Tata Power Company at bay in 2009, when one of its consumers sought to switch over to the latter for supply of electricity.
The matter was taken to MERC, which directed Tata Power to start supplying electricity to the consumer either by using its own cables or that of BEST. The civic undertaking had taken the matter to the Supreme Court, but failed to keep Tata Power away from its command area, the island city.
Later, the dispute took an ugly turn, as claimed by Tata Power. The power company claimed before the high court that it had made 4,784 applications during past two financial years to the BMC for excavation permissions and about 94 % were pending.